Recently, the team behind Silent Hill: Ascension (an interactive series based on the Silent Hill franchise) had to shut down the chat feature that was supposed to be an essential part of the entire interactive experience. Why? Well, it turns out that the chat function was being overworked/abused by fans who kept spamming often lurid requests regarding, among other things, the sexual acts they would like Pyramid Head to perform on them.
It was an entirely predictable outcome for a project that seemed to be a terrible idea from the start. Remarkably, though, that arguably isn’t the most embarrassing news item regarding Konami’s rebooted Silent Hill efforts to pop up in the last week. It’s not even the most embarrassing news item regarding Pyramid Head.
Recently, Silent Hill fans noticed that Best Buy uploaded their product page for developer Bloober Team’s upcoming Silent Hill 2 remake. That product page included some information about the remake that had not previously been released. Among that new product information was this fascinating bullet point:
“Fan favorite character, Pyramid Head, makes a return along with a special origin story for fans to play through.”
Before I dive too deeply into that information, I should be clear that there are elements of this story that we cannot confirm with absolute certainty. Not only could that product page be inaccurate or based on outdated information, but the strange wording of that line is open to some interpretation. For instance, I suppose it is possible (though seemingly unlikely) that the listing is touting the return of Pyramid Head and a new origin story but not suggesting that the origin story is necessarily directly related to Pyramid Head.
However, you’re not alone if you read that description and took it to mean that the Silent Hill 2 remake will include a playable Pyramid Head origin story. You’re also not alone if you gagged slightly at the thought of that possibility.
What is Pyramid Head’s origin story? The full answer to that question is meant to be largely ambiguous. However, we know that Pyramid Head first appeared in the 2001 video game, Silent Hill 2. As many of the things we see in that game are actually manifestations of protagonist James Sunderland’s twisted consciousness, it has long been assumed that the figure known as Pyramid Head is another one of those manifestations. Specifically, it’s popularly believed that Pyramid Head represents Sunderland’s repressed guilt and his desire to be punished for his past actions. Pyramid Head could be called the executioner of that sentencing.
Through supplementary material (and statements made by Silent Hill 2‘s art director, Masahiro Ito), we later learned that Pyramid Head’s design is meant to resemble outfits worn by cultist executioners who once worshipped the deity Valtiel in the town of Silent Hill. It seems that when James and his wife previously visited the town, James saw a picture of those executioners which was burned into his mind and later became the narrative inspiration for the striking look of the Pyramid Head character who is indeed a “fan favorite.”
However, Pyramid Head’s fan-favorite status has always been something of a sticking point for the franchise. Though it’s hardly unusual for a villain to become the face of a horror franchise (just look at pretty much every slasher movie ever), Pyramid Head is seemingly a manifestation of James’ subconscious. That inherently limits the character to James’ actions, which are (as of writing) largely limited to the 2001 video game, Silent Hill 2.
Yet, various efforts have been made to feature Pyramid Head in other pieces of media over the years. While that includes the character’s appearance in things like Bomberman DLC, Dead by Daylight, and a truly bizarre Silent Hill arcade game, those are sometimes brushed off as simple corporate cameos. What really bothered some people (including Masahiro Ito and Silent Hill producer Tomm Hulett) was when Konami decided to insert a Pyramid Head-type figure into Silent Hill: Homecoming. Though the character’s name and elements of its design were changed, it was an obvious instance of Konami willingly betraying the narrative logic of the Pyramid Head concept to capitalize on a familiar face.
“Logic” (or a complete lack thereof) is at the heart of this issue. How do you possibly create a playable Pyramid Head origin story that doesn’t directly involve James Sunderland? If the Pyramid Head character as we know it didn’t even really exist before the events of Silent Hill 2, then what supplementary origin are we meant to be playing through? That’s like having a Tyler Durden origin story prequel for Fight Club.
At the moment, my best guess is that the game may have us play through a scenario involving those Valtiel cultists whose appearances planted the design for Pyramid Head in James’ mind. Whether that hypothetical scenario historically happened or is an imagined incident based on James’ exposure to that shocking imagery is honestly kind of irrelevant. In either case, the character we would be playing through in that scenario would not be the Pyramid Head character from Silent Hill 2. It would most certainly not be an origin story for, again, a character that has no real narrative origin beyond the origin that we already played through the first time around.
While I’m willing to extend some benefit of the doubt in this instance that accounts for the things we do not currently know, the fact of the matter is that this whole thing feels like a very Konami decision in the worst ways possible.
For quite some time, Konami has showcased both a fundamental misunderstanding of the things that made Silent Hill 2 one of gaming’s great narrative masterpieces and a consistent desire to exploit the surface-level popularity of that game despite said misunderstandings. They’ve shown that they are perfectly fine treating Pyramid Head as another thing to slap on a t-shirt or a slot machine, which makes the idea that they would greenlight an origin story for a character that objectively does not need an origin story tragically easy to believe.
Furthermore, I would imagine Konami is thrilled by anything that lets them do more with Pyramid Head. If that origin story offers them a chance to pull the character from that pesky narrative logic it is currently constrained by, so much the better. Hey, they’ve already tried to ignore the things that make Pyramid Head actually interesting in favor of capitalizing on its recognizability and striking design. What would possibly stop them from wanting to do that again?
I still have hope for the Silent Hill 2 remake. We live in a golden age of gaming remakes, and a well-done remake of that title could prove to be an essential modern gaming experience. Having said that, the level of mental self-harm one must inflict on oneself to believe that Konami can be trusted to do any creative justice to the Silent Hill franchise is starting to feel like the real Pyramid Head origin story.
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